Recently I was invited to Wistanstow Primary School (in Shropshire, UK) to talk to a class of budding new comic enthusiasts about making comics. The class had been playing with computer programs such as Comic Life and using grids to create their own comics, and the teacher and my Mum (who works there as a Teachers Assistant) thought it would be good if I could come in and talk to them as I’ve just completed my degree in Illustration for Graphic Novels (well, last year :P).
I love comics, but I’ve struggled to actually make any of my own so far (although I have a few in the pipeline – watch this space) so I just wanted to get across the idea that it doesn’t necessarily matter how good you are at drawing, or how strong your character is (although both are important of course) but it’s how good your STORY is that is most important – after all, if the story isn’t interesting, who’s going to want to read it?
I had a lot of information in my head about Sequencial Art and the ‘story-peak’ that my tutor Dan Berry taught us (that might not have been what he actually called it… basically it was a graph of sorts showing how a story starts off slow -with Introductions to characters and such- rises to a peak at the height of the story -a character makes a startling discovery for example- and then lowers again as the issues are resolved) but when I realised I was pitching to a class of 9 year olds I had to ditch that, and after I’d shown them some of my own work, moved on to a nice activity instead – basically I shut up and let them draw 🙂
The Afternoon’s Activity
The idea was to get any distractions out of the way and get them thinking about the story itself. I had each child write their name, an animal (it could be anything) and a place (again, anywhere, although with this one I offered a few suggestions myself) on three scraps of paper, and put them in three tubs. I then drew a basic grid on the whiteboard, and picked one piece of paper out of each tub – we ended up with **** the Pig, and her destination was the School (I’m not allowed to use the children’s names…
I then asked the class, how does **** get to school? What happens to her on the way?
It was fairly quickly decided that she would fly there (naturally) but on the way she crashes into a bird (oh no!) and then the two of them crash into a tree! Having only one panel left even I was starting to wonder about how they’d get from the tree into the school, until I heard the genius suggestion of having the tree catapult the two of them into school! Amazing 🙂
Artists Note: Children are harsh critics! You’d be amazed at the speed in which they can point out that you’ve forgotten to draw the curly tail/ponytail/feet 😛
The Children’s Comics
What follows now is some of the comics the children drew -WARNING- some of them are cute, some of them are scary, and some of them are just leaps of inventive genius! (click on the comics to enlarge)
I think this could be my favourite animal design – an Afro and side-burn sporting Dragon at the swimming pool being attacked by a knight – he get’s his own back in the end *FWOOOSHH!*
I can’t remember what’s happening at the end of this one, but a low-flying Dragon accidentally hit’s a cactus and get’s stuck in the Desert – to pass the time he jumps into a spontaneous ‘Gangnam Style’ dance with the locals! Brilliant!
Things take a darker turn in this comic, as a young Piglet is attacked and strangled by a masked assailant! But everything turns out ok in the end, as Mummy pig turns up, stabs the attacker (see the blood!) and takes the Piglet to hospital (well, maybe not so well for the attacker…)
In this comic a Piggy Princess is having a ride in her carriage when oh no, she realises she’s forgotten her hat! Then to make things worse she’s thrown from the carriage – but luckily she end’s up next to a shed that just happens to contain her missing headpiece 🙂
In this cautionary comic a Dog is really excited to be in Space – and look, someone’s laid out a moon picnic! But by the end he has suffocated, because dogs can’t breathe in space silly! Remember kids: Always bring a space helmet.
I think this is my favourite comic as far as creative problem solving goes – a Bull is drowning, and is on the verge of death, but luckily a CPR savvy Penguin turns up and saves his life (check out the ‘come on, stay with me’ bubble! Someone’s been watching Casualty with mummy!) – the Bull is then so grateful he asks the Penguin to marry him, which of course Penguin agrees to, and they finally end up at his location: The Church! Genius!
In this comic a cat agrees to get her Grandma a Coke from the supermarket, and on the way accidentally falls into a tube that seems to take her straight there! (via a paddling pool) – unfortunately when she finally makes it home she’s brought back Diet Coke instead! Oh No!
Unfortunately some of the pencil work has been lost in the photocopy here, but this comic is told from the view of a guest star of this story, the Hairdresser – and what a cool looking dude he is! The horse is so enamoured by his stylish ways he wants the look for himself, and by gum, does he get it!
A baby pig is too hot in his cot, so he goes out for an Ice Lolly to cool down – he then decides to take a nap in the sunshine but wakes up with the most horrific sunburn! (does anyone else smell bacon…?) To sooth his skin he goes for a nice cool swim – just look at that tan! Great use of colour here!
*Lucy’s Pick* This is an adorable little comic, where a cat is sad because there are no flowers in her vase! She goes out to pick some but get’s lost… luckily there’s a friendly tiger around to show her the way home, and the last panel show’s how happy she is now there’s flowers in her vase – great little story 🙂
An Eagle’s late for School, but not so late that he doesn’t have time to stop and tell a passing doughnut about his poor time-keeping skills! Love the simplicity of this one!
An Octopus is on his way to the Supermarket to buy cookies, but he piles so many in his trolly it falls over and scatters the cookies everywhere! The manager is so mad he throws him out and into a tree! Luckily it’s not far from the ocean though, and the Octopus jumps back into the sea! 🙂
Ok try not to get TOO excited, it’s just a cover – and a fake one at that (although I’ll make the comic some day) but when I found out about #CreatorOwnedDay on twitter, I just had to join in, so I knocked this up.
Creator Owned Day was a good way for everyone to show off their own original characters/comics, and as an aspiring comic book artist, it seemed like a waste to just let it pass by – there was some very interesting work about – try the hashtag yourself to see if anything you like pops up
This is somehow my first ever fan-art for AT – I’d just like to add that as a English fan, it was REALLY hard to not add an ‘S’ to the end of ‘Math’, but I hear it in Finn’s voice, and it just wouldn’t have sounded right… also my real Totoro hat is blue, but it would have clashed too much with the sky, so artistic licence y’all.
There’s a couple of in-jokes in the background you probably won’t get, but don’t worry about it, just enjoy
(click to enlarge)
As a romantic/creative type, I always like to go that little bit extra for those I care about, and this year it could be said that I went a little over-board. Lucy’s always been in love with Paris, and her recent trip has done nothing to quash that – unfortunately as a struggling artist, it will be some time before I can afford to take her. To make up for this, I decided to recreate a Parisian Cafe in our living room – the little table, white table cloth, candles wine and food were easy enough, and I found some music on Youtube (literally called French Cafe Music I think), but I wasn’t done there. Out flat has a little balcony, and I thought it would be fun if I created a silhouette of The Eiffel Tower, and hung it outside so it would look like a view onto the real tower… it seemed so simple in my head…
The first thing was to cut out the actual tower. I went begging at my local Tesco for a large sheet of cardboard, but apparently they don’t DO stuff in big boxes these days (hmm) and after a brief panic, I found a stash of A4 black card and got to work. The tower would need to be about 130cm tall to fit between the railing of our balcony, and the floor of the one above it, so I found a vector of the Eiffel Tower (thanks google) and set it out like this:
Each coloured block is the same dimensions as an A4 piece of paper, so this not only shows how many pieces you’ll need, but what you should be cutting out on each piece – simple right? Well… not exactly. The theory worked fine, and aside from the fact that I was working too quickly to bother with rulers and actual measurements, the tower ended up being pretty straight. The problem was that even though it’s got quite an iconic outline, it doesn’t really LOOK like the Eiffel Tower until you can see all the frame work, so I had to cut out MANY a little triangle…
Sometime later, I ended up with this:
See? Not bad eh? Of course, foreshortening does it no favours here (it was pretty long), and there’s a lot of tape on it – but that didn’t matter, because phase two involved using yet more tape to stick our Christmas Tree lights behind it to make it light up… and it worked pretty well too! Getting it to hang of the balcony by myself was a bit of a mission, but in the end it looked like this:
(photo taken by Lucy Benson via Instagram)
…and I was very pleased with the results – and more importantly, Lucy loved it 🙂 Now, a cynic might say “pffft, this guy’s just showing off” and frankly, you’d be right.
It hasn’t really sunk in for me that University is now over… projects are “completed” (some may require some ACTUAL finishing) Assessment is over (I passed!) and my work is framed and currently hanging in the end of year show (I might do a blog post about that in my new blog… when I BUILD my new blog…) – but it doesn’t really FEEL like it’s all over. Having been to three Graduations already (none of which were mine) I’m well aware that not everyone goes… seems strange that apart from random encounters, I’ll never see some of my classmates again. While I never got to be as close friends to some as I would have liked to, I’ll miss you guys – good luck with all you hope to achieve 🙂
*ahem* Anyway, to celebrate the end of deadlines, and some actual time off before I start my job at Mecca (thrilling as THAT will be) I now have time to catch up on all the drawing I haven’t been able to do, including birthdays and anniversary cards (whoops!) I simply haven’t had time to do until now… but before all that, I wanted to draw Spider-Man 😛
I’ve had this design in my head for a few years now (see how long it takes me to get around to things) and I think it started to evolve in my head whilst I was watching an old episode of the 90’s Spider-Man cartoon. As awesome as it was (and still is in many ways) it was annoying me at how bulky they had made him – Spider-man should always be spindly, and light-looking in my opinion, like spiders themselves. I originally had planned this Spider-Man simply to be a mutant replacement for the original (maybe he had abducted the original… maybe he had been drafted in by S.H.I.E.L.D or something) simply called ‘Mutant Spider-Man’, but in drawing it I started to develop a proper character behind the ‘mask’ – a mutant named Facsimile; who’s mutant power enables him to replicate any superpower in his own, unique way (an interpretation of that power if you will). He is limited to one power at a time, and can’t successfully replicate weapons (such as Thor’s hammer) or machines (Iron-Man’s armour) to their full extent. There was more, but hopefully it won’t be years again until I get to draw him, or other superhero Facsimile forms (such as the Hulk), so I’ll say more about him some other time.
Here’s a few sketches showing him doing ‘whatever a spider can’ to demonstrate how the design works…
Incidentally, I’m attempting to build myself a website, so unless I can find a way to splice it with this blog, this could be the last time I post here – or at least when I post that I’ve successfully completed the website, THAT will be the last post – thanks so much to those that follow me, stay tuned for more ramblings; different web-time, different web-channel!
Here’s what I’ve been doing for a large chunk of the day: a Dick Tracey style illustration of Richard Castle as P.I. Joe Flynn from the Castle episode ‘The Blue Butterfly’
This is why I should NOT do ‘warm-up’ sketches – what started off as a harmless doodle ended up consuming most of my day…
I’m pleased with it though (aside from the stupid ‘S’ in Castle that went wrong) and it was a brilliant episode, worth watching just to hear Stana Katic say: ‘You’re the cream in my coffee’